Recent literature has shown that acute reverse total shoulder arthroplasty (RTSA) yields good outcomes in the treatment of displaced proximal humeral fractures, and there have also been recent studies showing that delayed RTSA can be successfully used for sequelae of proximal humeral fractures such as nonunion and malunion. The use of meta-analysis affords the opportunity to formally compare the outcomes of acute RTSA for fracture and delayed RTSA for fracture sequelae.

We searched the MEDLINE, Embase, and Cochrane Library databases. We included all studies reporting on RTSA for the treatment of proximal humeral fracture sequelae with a comparison group of acute RTSA or with no comparison group in adults with a mean age older than 65 years and at least 2 years of follow-up. We calculated weighted mean differences for range of motion, standardized mean differences for clinical outcome scores, and relative risks for dichotomous outcomes.

Sixteen studies met the inclusion criteria, which comprised 322 patients undergoing RTSA for fracture sequelae. Of these studies, 4 were comparative (46 patients) whereas 12 were case series (276 patients). Among studies directly comparing acute versus delayed RTSA, no differences in forward flexion (P = .72), clinical outcome scores (P = .78), or all-cause reoperation (P = .92) were found between the 2 groups. Patients undergoing delayed RTSA achieved 6° more external rotation than those undergoing acute RTSA; this difference was significant (P = .01).

Given the risks associated with surgery in the elderly population, consideration may be given to an initial trial of nonoperative treatment in these patients, saving RTSA for those in whom nonoperative treatment fails without compromising the ultimate outcome.

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